The best laundry stain removers you can buy

The best laundry stain removers you can buy

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best stain remover

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  • Laundry is a necessary chore that is much more difficult when tough stains are involved.
  • We tested several stain removers to see which ones did the best job with tough stains.
  • OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover is our top pick because it is safe to use on all white and color clothes, delivers excellent stain removal, and is gentle on fabrics.

Laundry isn't usually on the top of our list of fun activities and no one wants to have to rewash things that don't come clean the first time. The start of a successful laundry routine happens when you choose the right detergent, but even the best of the best detergent can't remove every stain. That's why we need to keep stain removers on hand.

I've been testing products for companies, agencies, and publications for many years as a laundry and housekeeping professional. When it comes to laundry stain removers, I am always looking for ones that are simple to use and produce the best results.

Unfortunately, there is not a single product that can remove every stain on every fabric. Some stains, like Sharpie permanent ink, are simply impossible to remove. But, after testing and reviewing dozens of brands, I can recommend that you keep these five stain removers on hand. You'll be glad you have them on laundry day.


Here are the best stain removers you can buy:

Read on in the slides below to check out our top picks.

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The best laundry stain remover overall

The best laundry stain remover overall
Why you'll love it: If you are looking for a reasonably-priced, effective stain remover that removes heavy mud, grass, and food stains and can be safely used for all washable fabrics, OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover is the best.

The reason I have named OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover as the best overall stain remover is that it is not only a stain remover, it also whitens and brightens fabrics and boosts the performance of any brand of detergent.

Since OxiClean is a gentle, slow-acting, oxygen-based bleach, the key to successful use as a stain remover is mixing the powdered solution correctly and having a bit of patience.

Follow the instructions on the package for the correct amount of powder to use per gallon of water for a presoak solution to get best results. Also, be sure that all of the powder is dissolved completely before adding the fabric. You'll have better results if the stained items are allowed to soak for at least an hour or even overnight before washing as usual.

On Walgreens' site, OxiClean scores 4.4 stars out of five. Reviewer Newf65 says, "I’ve been using this product for stain removal for a year or more now and find it’s the best I’ve used with no chlorine added."

While close to a perfect cleaner, OxiClean is not a miracle formula for every type of stain. It won't remove oily stains (the next product will!), dried oil paint, or chlorine bleach damage.

Pros: Safe to use on all washable fabrics, readily available in mass-market stores and online, available in a dye and scent-free formula, can be mixed in small batches or used for an entire laundry load (11 cents per load)

Cons: Does not remove heavy oil stains, slow-acting product requires time to presoak fabrics with set-in stains

Buy OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover at Walmart in a 3-pound tub for $7.92 Buy OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover on Amazon in a 3-pound tub for $7.71 (currently out of stock)

The best laundry stain remover on a budget

The best laundry stain remover on a budget
Why you'll love it: Fels Naptha is a laundry soap bar that costs just fractions of a penny per use but removes oily stains with a single swipe.

You'll find that the old-fashioned Fels Naptha Laundry Soap Bar can do some pretty amazing things even though it has been around since 1893. The formula and ownership of the brand have changed but its stain removal performance is still great.

It is most effective as a stain remover for oil-based messes like make-up, butter, cooking oil, chocolate, and body oil on collars and cuffs. Simply wet the fabric and rub the stain with the bar of soap. Then, let Fels Naptha do its work for about five minutes before washing in the hottest water recommended on the garment label.

There are even extra bonuses. Fels Naptha is great for removing poison ivy resin from clothes and shoes that have been exposed, and it can be grated to become an effective ingredient in homemade detergents.

Since it was originally sold in general stores, a look at reviews on Ace Hardware's site reveals that the majority of the 172 reviews are four or five stars. As CollarMan writes, "I bought this to help clean some shirt collars ... Product worked as advertised on my collar stains."

Pros: Very low cost, easy-to-use, effective in removing oil-based stains from washable fabrics

Cons: Can be difficult to find in some mass-market stores

Buy Fels Naptha Laundry Soap Bar (5.0 ounce) on Amazon for $1.95

The best laundry stain remover for the environment

The best laundry stain remover for the environment
Why you'll love it: Environmentally-safe Earth Friendly Stain and Odor Remover Spray contains no dyes to irritate skin and removes tough stains and odors without harsh chemicals.

It's a good feeling when you find a product that is good for the environment and is also a top performer. Earth Friendly Stain and Odor Remover Spray is just that type of product. Made with plant-based enzymes and other ingredients, it is safe to use around children and pets and removes all types of stains and organic odors.

While I tested as a laundry stain remover, I can also say that it works great on upholstery and carpet as well. As one reviewer on Amazon shared, "Bought it for pet odors. Learned that it wipes out under-arm odor from my garments."

Simply spray the formula on the stained area and wait about five minutes before rubbing it in lightly and then washing the fabric as usual.

Earth Friendly Products is in the process of rebranding all of its products to the ECOS label. The product formulas are exactly the same, just a new, fresh look to the packaging and a trendy name.

Pros: Plant and mineral-based ingredients are environmentally-friendly, never tested on animals, stain remover works well to remove all types of stains and organic odors

Cons: Not readily available in every mass-market store, the product is rebranding to the ECOS name and may be out-of-stock during the transition

Buy Earth Friendly Stain and Odor Spray at Walmart in a 22-ounce bottle for $2.28

The best stain remover for dry clean only clothes

The best stain remover for dry clean only clothes
Why you'll love it: Dry cleaning is expensive and K2R Spot Remover can remove small stains so you can get another wear from a non-washable garment.

It seems that every time I put on a freshly dry-cleaned garment I immediately drop some food onto it. I don't want to have to pay for another cleaning just because there is one little droplet of butter on a lapel.

While K2R Spot Remover is more expensive than most other stain removers, it comes to the rescue and pays for itself by saving on dry cleaning costs.

Using a water-based stain remover is not always best for dry clean only fabrics like silk and wool because it can leave watermarks or even cause discoloration. K2R Spot Remover is an aerosol version of a dry cleaning solvent that will remove stains without damaging fabrics.

Simply spray it on the stained area and let it dry. Then brush or vacuum away the dried powder and the stain.

On Amazon, 80% of the more than 300 reviewers rated it as four or five stars. Says one fan, "I have been using this stuff for 25 years and it has never let me down." I concur.

Pros: Removes stains on dry clean only fabrics saving a trip to the cleaner, the spray-on formula is easy to use

Cons: Contains potentially toxic chemicals, it should not be used in small air-tight spaces and fumes should not be inhaled, not readily available in all mass-market stores

Buy K2R Spot Remover in a 5-ounce spray container on Amazon for $9.97

The best laundry stain remover on the go

The best laundry stain remover on the go
Why you'll love it: If you're a little clumsy and hate having to display what you had for lunch on your shirt, Tide to go can make your life a little less embarrassing.

While I may know how to remove all types of stains, it is only because I've had so much practice. Yes, I'm clumsy and spill things on myself frequently and, of course, it happens when I'm in the car or in public. Thankfully, Tide to go comes to the rescue.

After you remove any solids that hit the fabric (always use a dull knife or the edge of a credit card to lift away blobs, no rubbing!), simply dab the stained area with the Tide pen and blot with the microfiber pad included in the package or a white napkin. The solvents will help dissolve the stain so that it disappears when the fabric dries.

On Target's site, Tide to go has a four-star rating with more than 600 reviews. One shopper states emphatically, "I love using the Tide To-Go [sic]...The pens have removed every stain that I have tried to get out. I take them with me everywhere I go. I love the convenience of them."

You can buy the pens in multi-packs to lower the individual cost and so you can leave one in the car, in your pocket, and in your desk. You'll need them!

Pros: Convenient to use, can be used on most washable fabrics, removes most food stains

Cons: Should not be used on dry-clean only fabrics, higher cost per use than large bottles of stain remover, will not remove all types of stains

Buy a Tide to go pen (.33 ounces) on Amazon for $4.63